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ness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righ“ teously, and godly in this present world.”
Now as far as any man is inwardly conscious that this is his experience, these his desires, this his daily aim, his character, and conduct, he may be sure that he possesses what no hypocrite ever yet attained to; and he may be sure that the same distinguishing grace which hath wrought this decisive difference, will preserve and perfect its own good work.
But whilst this matter remains doubtful, the other cannot be certain; for how can he be sure of perseverance who is not sure of conversion ? Such should be exhorted to “ give diligence, to make their calling and election sure;” and be encouraged by the promise, that “they who seek shall find.” But let them not prematurely grasp at what neither belongs to them, nor would
yet be profitable to them. Nay if the established christian grows very slothful, or sinks into allowed sin; by thus weakening his evidence of conversion, he loses the warranted comfort of this doctrine; which, in this case, would operate as a most dangerous opiate, when stimulants alone are requisite. It is the wise appointment of God, that when love declines fear should rouse the torpid soul; none should counteract this appointment. Is the backslider alarmed and distressed? It is well. Let him repent and do his first works, and in due time God will restore his former consolations; but let none encourage themselves in
sloth and sin by this doctrine, lest; being deceived, they perish with a lie in their right hand.
The true believer then, in the habitual exercise of grace and practice of his dutý, is the only person who can warrantably be confident of perseverance. --Having so fully resolved this first question, the others will more readily be dispatched.
2. What need has the person above described of this encouragement, seeing he may be supposed otherwise comforted ?
The more a man values spiritual blessings, the greater will be bis dread of losing them. The more conscientious, circumspect and watchful he is, the greater will be his acquaintance with the treachery of his own heart, the fascinations of the world, and the artifice of Satan. The falls of others, whom he has preferred far before himself; will much alarm and distress him. He will not always, even when most diligent, walk in light and comfort; and he will be conscious of much sloth and evil, though he cause no scandal to the gospel, nor much bring the reality of his conversion into doubt. On all these accounts he will be anxious about the future, and distressed about the event of the important warfare, even to the discouraging his heart, and weakening his hand at some times. But this doctrine is sweetly suited to encourage him to commit the keeping of his soul for the remnant of his days, into the hands of a faithful covenant God, that without distraction he
may attend to his present duty. For the Lord takes pleasure in seeing his servants joyful in their work, though not in sin and sloth. But,
3. In what shall they persevere?
(1.) In that state of grace wherein they stand, so as not finally to perish or come short of glory, for their good Shepherd shall keep them, and
none shall pluck them out of his hand,” by temptation or persecution, living or dying. -(2.) In an habitual course of holy obedience, progressively waxing stronger and stronger, and bringing forth fruit more and more even to the end. The former mainly respects their personal interests: the latter is intimately connected with the glory of God, and the credit of the gospel in the world, together with the interests of religion and the salvation of souls: the former is important; the latter vastly more so. Self-love alone may influence a man to desire to be saved from misery, and made eternally happy; but nothing short of divine grace, producing genuine love of God, attachment to the cause of godliness, and benevolence to the souls of men, can render us auxious about the latter. To suppose a man awakened and converted, and then returning into the world and sin, and after a long interval, perhaps of many years,
just brought back again to escape hell; and to suppose this a general and common case, and to accommodate the doctrine to it, is to make a perseverance pleasing to hypocrites, dishonourable to God, scandalous to religion, subversive of holy practice, and unsuitable to true christians, who all long to persevere to the end in increasing holiness, and dread sin as the greatest evil, and cannot bear the thoughts of dishonouring God, and being hurtful examples to others, even though they should not be sent to hell for it. A few anomalous cases we may allow of, but the general rule is, a perseverance in holiness, even to the end.
Finally; How shall this perseverance be effected?
The Lord himself will either by his continual grace uphold his people in the uniform holy walk which he requires, daily exercising “repentance “ towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,” and cheerful universal obedience; or if at any time they are left to step aside, he will with-hold comfort from their souls, rebuke them by his word, chastise them with his rod, till he bring them to repentance, and lead them with weeping and supplication back into the forsaken paths of holy obedience. Did it consist with the purpose and counsel of God to leave a true christian to depart from him, and return into the world and sin, and die
impenitent, he not only might, but certainly would perish. Our security is, that God hath promised that he will put his fear into the hearts of all his true servants, that they shall not thus depart from him.
Thus stated and guarded, this doctrine may be of eminent use to the true christian, to quicken his diligence, arm him with courage, and invigorate his resolution to press forward; to be “stedfast and unmoveable, always abounding in “the work of the Lord, forasmuch as he knows " that his labour is not in vain in the Lord." And if hypocrites will abuse it, they do it at their
ANSWER TO FERVIDUS.
Theol. Misc. 1786.
HE Questions which Fervidus proposes concern. ing the law of God, tend to ascertain the precise distinction betwixt the highest attainments of nature, with its utmost advantages; and the least measure of true grace under every disadvantage. The difficulty of giving an exact, perspicuous, and satisfactory solution is therefore equal to the importance of the subject. Not so much from